In an effort to fill one of the mile-long gaps between stations on the Central Corridor light-rail line, the city of St. Paul on Wednesday offered to put up $5.2 million of its own money to add a stop on University Avenue.

Where the money will come from, however, is still up in the air.

The offer was announced as part of a compromise with the Metropolitan Council, which is overseeing the project. In exchange, the Met Council will spend nearly $8 million to buy land bounded by 4th and 5th, Cedar and Minnesota streets needed for the project, as well as $1.5 million to improve the facade of the maintenance facility in Lowertown.

Budget gets a boost

It had been assumed the city would acquire that land.

The 11-mile line from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis got a budget increase Wednesday that could reach $941.3 million, from $914 million. That's where money to buy the land, improve the facility and alleviate some of the University of Minnesota's concerns will come from.

Budgets are tight, but officials say the money will be there. "We do have some possible resources on the table," said Nancy Homans, policy director for Mayor Chris Coleman. She mentioned existing special taxing districts along the avenue or money from capital improvement bonds.

The city has to commit now but won't have to write the check for a year or two, she said.

City Council Member Melvin Carter III hailed the deal. "Today's decision sets in motion a process that resolves my concerns over transit equity," he said.

City officials want community input before deciding where the so-called "infill station" would be built. Potential locations are at Hamline, Western and Victoria Avenues.

An economically distressed area by Western may have less access to transit service after the line is built, and putting a station there could alleviate that issue.

The deal was agreed to by a committee that's planning the line, but the Met Council didn't formally approve it during its Wednesday meeting.

The project reached a milestone last week when it received permission from the Federal Transit Administration to apply to move into final design. Project officials are expecting the federal agency to pay for half of the cost of the line.

Store owners worried about business

A group of business owners, in partnership with the Asian Economic Development Association, kicked off a campaign Wednesday to bring attention to their concerns about keeping their doors open.

The "Save our Businesses and Jobs Committee" is offering red signs to University Avenue businesses to raise awareness. "What we want now is mitigation for our businesses," said Lysa Bui, owner of Saigon restaurant. Construction will keep people away, and revenues will fall, she said.

Va-Megn Thoj, interim director of the economic development association, said the campaign isn't meant to fight the arrival of light rail, just minimize the negative effects likely to happen. He said mitigation could include marketing help, forgivable loans, grants and just spacing construction out.

The Met Council is handling construction mitigation, which includes providing signs and keeping access open, said project spokeswoman Laura Baenen.

Three community groups -- Central Corridor Partnership, Central Corridor Funders Collaborative and the University Avenue Business Preparation Collaborative -- are offering consulting and marketing help, she said.

Staff writer Jim Foti contributed to this report. Chris Havens • 612-673-4148